Food restriction increases maximal life span in rodents. Male rats that exercise in voluntary running wheels do not have an increase in maximal longevity despite a relative caloric deficit. In contrast, sedentary rats that are food restricted so as to cause the same caloric deficit have an extension of maximal longevity. It seemed possible that exercise-induced oxidative stress might prevent a maximum life span-extending effect of a caloric deficit to manifest itself. This study was done to determine if antioxidants would allow a maximal longevity-extending effect of exercise to manifest itself in male rats. The antioxidant diet had no effect on longevity of the runners (Antiox., 951 +/- 158 days versus control 937 + 171 days), or of the sedentary controls (875 +/- 127 versus 858 +/- 152 days). As in previous studies, wheel running modestly increased average longevity (approximately 9%), but had no effect on maximal life span. The finding that antioxidants had no effect on longevity of the wheel runners supports the interpretation that the caloric deficit induced by exercise in male rats does not have a life-extending effect that is countered by oxidative tissue damage.